Ray Tanner assured South Carolina fans Monday that the length of his coaching search would prove worthwhile when compared to length of his hire’s tenure. He even told his boss that on one occasion during the process.
“I was getting anxious, too,” USC president Harris Pastides said. “Every time I called him he convinced me he was doing it the right way. He said, ‘President, I am looking for a coach for a decade or more, can I take a few more hours?’ Although to the fans it may have taken longer than some would have wanted, I think it took exactly the right amount of time.”
Tanner hired former Florida coach Will Muschamp on Monday after a 54-day search.
“While maybe there has been a little time to get to this point the thing that was important was the time that we spent would result in a football coach for a long, long time,” Tanner said.
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The Gamecocks met with five coaches “on a very serious level,” Tanner said. The school is believed to have had at least some form of contact with Houston head coach Tom Herman, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, North Carolina coach Larry Fedora, Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, South Florida head coach Willie Taggart, former Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano and Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez.
Arizona athletics director Greg Byrne tweeted this weekend that Rodriguez had an “offer” to become the Gamecocks head coach and turned it down. Tanner described that as “inaccurate.”
Tanner would not say if he offered the job to any coach other than Muschamp.
“The search process was extensive,” he said. “It was thorough. There isn’t a book for this. I did speak to numerous athletics directors. They all said to me, it’s just going to have to be done the way you see it needs to be done. I enjoyed it. This was exciting. Talking about the University of South Carolina, I love being here, it’s a great sell, and I wanted to be alongside somebody who felt like I did, and I think Will Muschamp is the man.”
Muschamp was Tanner’s “first choice,” Pastides believes.
“I can’t speak for people who might have been in conversations with Ray before that, but I can tell you, he never brought another name to me,” Pastides said. “And so it wasn’t like, ‘I’d like to make that person an offer,’ and then he calls me up and says, ‘Can’t get him, how about this fella?’ It never happened that way. He only delivered one name to me and to the board chairman and that was Will.”
Tanner first reached out to Muschamp via text message on “Wednesday or Thursday,” Muschamp said. The pair met Friday night at a Charlotte hotel around 6 p.m. and talked until 1 a.m., Tanner said. After “three or four hours” of sleep, Tanner called Muschamp early Saturday morning.
“I said, ‘I have a few more questions,’ and I really didn’t. I just wanted to be with him,” Tanner said. “I was in a great place and that was exciting. I think he’s a great fit for us.”
Tanner has been impressed with Muschamp since they had an impromptu conversation a year ago, Tanner said. That conversation had nothing to do with any possibility of coaching the Gamecocks, Tanner said.
“It resonated with me in a very special way,” Tanner said. “I thought, ‘I like that guy,’ and that feeling never went away with me. I knew that Will Muschamp was going to be very special to me if he had the desire to be at the University of South Carolina.”
Muschamp got the same feeling from Tanner, the coach said.
“As much as anything, you meet with Coach Tanner and you see, here’s a guy who loves the University of South Carolina, and when you see an investment like that, that motivates you and you understand this guy is willing to do the things you need to do to be successful,” Muschamp said. “I had some other schools reach out as a possible head coaching situation that I didn’t pursue. This was the perfect fit for us and that’s why we pursued it.”
Tanner’s goal had always been to have a coach hired by the end of this week. Senior associate athletics director Charles Waddell assisted Tanner in the search and sat in with the athletics director during conversations with coaches.
“There were times we missed some meals, and that’s not like us,” Tanner said. “The timetable, I felt, was perfect when we started, and we got to the place we needed to with the right man. Maybe Charles Waddell and Coach Muschamp would tell you it was a little more extensive than it needed to be, but I felt good about it. I wanted to be right, and the time did not affect me and we got it right.”
The number of coaching openings never concerned Tanner he said, and he declined to say if the University of Georgia’s decision to fire Mark Richt and hire Smart affected his search process.
“I was always concerned about what was right for the University of South Carolina and if there was a coach who went somewhere or jumped to this or went to another place, then he wasn’t that guy so I never became concerned with that,” Tanner said. “I was getting some pressure, but it did not affect me. I don’t know if it was confidence or arrogance, but I didn’t get concerned about the openings or the timetable.”
Inside look at Muschamp’s contract
Term: 5 years
Beginning date: Dec. 9, 2015
Ending date: Dec. 31, 2020
Annual Guaranteed compensation
(Can add up to $1.075 million if all are reached in one year
Playing in SEC championship game: $100,000
Winning SEC championship game: $150,000
Non-Big 6 bowl game: $ 50,000
Capital One bowl: $100,000
Big 6 bowl game: $250,000
Wins Big 6 bowl game: $300,000
NCAA post-season playoff game: $300,000
Playing for National Championship: $300,000
Wins National Championship: $400,000
SEC Coach of the Year: $ 50,000
AFCA National Coach of the Year: $75,000
Football team has APR of 950-964: $50,000
Multi-year APR of 965-974: $75,000
Multi-year APR of 975 or higher: $100,000
1. Football Tickets
(a) Home Games: Use of one (1) suite at Williams-Brice Stadium containing sixteen (16) seats, plus eight (8) additional tickets, to each regular season home game.
(b) Away Games: Twelve (12) tickets to each regular season away game. Spouse will be allowed to travel with the team to away football games.
(c) Post-Season Bowl Games: Twenty four (24) tickets to any bowl game.
(a) Life Insurance: University will pay annual premiums on a term life insurance policy featuring a death benefit equal to $2 million.
(b) Disability Insurance: University will pay annual premiums on a disability insurance policy featuring a disability benefit equal to $250,000.
3. Automobiles: Use of two (2) courtesy vehicles.
4. Club Memberships: Membership in one (1) country club and one (1) dining club approved by University.
5. Moving Expenses: Reimbursement for actual moving expenses incurred in relocation to Columbia.
If Muschamp decides to leave in the first year of the deal, he will owe the school $7 million, and that buyout will decrease by $1 million each year.
If the school fires Muschamp without cause during the deal, it will owe him 70 percent of the remaining value of the contract.